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Mark Fisher
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Follow me on Twitter at MarkFFisher, WriteAboutTheat and LimelightXTC I am a freelance journalist and critic specialising in theatre and the arts. Publications I write for include the Guardian and the Scotsman. I am the author of The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide: how to make your show a success and How to Write About Theatre: A Manual for Critics, Students and Bloggers. I am also editor of The XTC Bumper Book of Fun for Boys and Girls: A Limelight Anthology. From 2000-2003, I was the editor of The List magazine, Glasgow and Edinburgh's arts and events guide.
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Monday, October 17, 2011

The Hunted

Published in Northings
Scottish Youth Theatre, Glasgow, 8 October 2011, and touring

DESPITE the enormous changes brought about by the industrial and technological revolutions, we have never stopped being spellbound by the fairy story. The world of woodcutters, wolves and forests should mean nothing to the modern child, yet the archetypal narratives of Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel and Snow White remain potent.

It is as if these ancient folk tales exist in a perpetual present tense: "Once upon a time there is," and not, "Once upon a time there was". It is with these same present-tense words that JC Marshall's three-hander for teenagers begins. The Visible Fictions production evokes several classic fairytales in its coming-of-age story of an orphan girl who is lured into the dark forest by the prospect of becoming a hunter only to find herself turned into bait for the mythical white wolf.

Like the classic bedtime tales, The Hunted is a metaphor for our journey towards adult independence. As she escapes the clutches of her guardian to join the village hunter on his night-time sortie, the girl discovers that not every grown-up can be trusted, that with rights come responsibilities, that vengeance is different from justice, and that the closer you get to self-knowledge, the more you're ready to fall in love.

The playwright understands that every one of these discoveries is timeless, as pertinent now as it has been for generations. She takes the idea a step further, however, by throwing in some amateur quantum mechanics. I doubt her theory would pass muster with the editorial board of New Scientist, but for the purposes of the play, she makes us believe that a twist of the girl's kaleidoscope makes it possible for a modern-day boy to get wrapped up in her story. Thus, "Once upon a time there is" runs in parallel to "Once upon a time there was".

The boy's story is lightly sketched - he's a teenager reacting ferociously to his father's domestic violence against his brother - but it's enough to suggest modern-day children have to go on just as much a journey of self-discovery as Little Red Riding Hood. It also introduces the kind of mind-expanding Doctor Who-style sci-fi that goes down well with the target age range who are especially attuned to life's wondrous possibilities.

All of this is strikingly done in Douglas Irvine's production on a set (co-designed with Becky Minto) of dangling light bulbs, illuminating or obscuring the way through the dark forest. Kirsty Stuart is bullish as the girl, more aware of her strengths than conscious of her weaknesses, and a determined foil for Billy Mack's faithless hunter and Roddy Cairns' shell-shocked time-travelling boy. The science may be fanciful but the impulses run deep in an engrossing production.

© Mark Fisher, 2011

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